Franco Berardi Bifo

Accelerationism Questioned from the Point of View of the Body
e-flux journal #46 Ñ june 2013 Ê Franco Berardi Bifo Accelerationism Questioned from the Point of View of the Body

Is acceleration a condition for a final collapse of power? ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊAcceleration is the essential feature of capitalist growth: productivity increase implies an intensification in the rhythm of production and exploitation. The accelerationist hypothesis, nevertheless, points out the contradictory implications of the process of intensification, emphasizing in particular the instability that acceleration brings into the capitalist system. Contra this hypothesis, however, my answer to the question of whether acceleration marks a final collapse of power is quite simply: no. Because the power of capital is not based on stability. Naomi Klein has explained capitalismÕs ability to profit from catastrophe. Furthermore, capitalist power, in the age of complexity, is not based on slow, rational, conscious decisions, but on embedded automatisms which do not move at the speed of the human brain. Rather, they move at the speed of the catastrophic process itself. ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊBut the accelerationist hypothesis can be read from a different Ð more interesting Ð angle, as a particular version of the radical immanence in the philosophical dimension of contemporary Spinozian communist thought. ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊI can refer to Hardt and NegriÕs books. Here, the transition beyond the sphere of capitalist domination is conceived in terms of a full deployment of the tendencies implied in the present forms of production and life. Acceleration in this framework can be viewed as the full implementation of those tendencies that lead to the deployment of the inner potencies contained in the present form of capitalism. ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊIn Empire, Hardt and Negri reject the deceptive pretense of an anti-globalist return to national sovereignty, and remark on the analogy between the globalizing empire of post-national politics and the potency of the internet, which can be viewed as the realization of the potency of the general intellect.1 ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊWe can also find this rejection of any nostalgia for the slowness of a pre-capitalist past in the work of Deleuze and Guattari. In AntiOedipus, the rejection assumes the schizoid perspective: the schizoid is the accelerating pace of the Unconscious. Schizophrenia is all about speed: the speed of the surrounding universe in relation to the speed of mental interpretation. Yet there is no dimension of mental normalcy to restore, and in Anti-Oedipus, schizophrenia is both the metaphor of capitalism and the methodology of revolutionary action: But which is the revolutionary path? Is there one? Ð To withdraw from the world market, as Samir Amin advises Third World countries to do, in a curious revival of the fascist Òeconomic solutionÓ? Or might it be

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Italy.Foucault's copy of Anti-Oedipus offered by Deleuze with drawings by his two children. ÒOedipus does not exist.Ó Totem built by the student group known as Indiani Metropolitani.13 / 11:22:55 EST . Deleuze points to the drawings and notes in yellow.13. 11. 1977.

ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊWe may call this conception Ð opposed as it is to the idealistic vision of Hegelian dialectics. and this form of subsumption is painful Ð it generates panic before finally destroying any possible form of autonomous subjectivation. ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊThe final chapter of What is Philosophy? concerns the crucial relation between chaos and the brain. the postHegelian brand of Critical Thought that flourished in Italian Workerism of the Ô60s and Ô70s. but to go further. It is hidden inside the present form of social production. ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊAcceleration is one of the features of 11. that is. This is a common point in DeleuzoGuattarian rhizomatics and in the multitudinous Spinozism of Hardt and Negri. on the one hand. not decoded enough. The answer lies in the passage from 1972 to 1992. than ideas that fly off. to Òaccelerate the process. The possibilities of the future are contained in the present composition of society.13. The permanent conflict and cooperation between work and capital is the sphere where the process of deployment happens. le vieux monde est derri•re toi! Ð Run comrade. which was in turn adopted by Marxist-Leninist ideology Ð Òimmanentism. God is Nature. the two decades separating the publication of AntiOedipus from the publication of What is Philosophy?. nor in the ideas of philosophers. But when it comes to the process of the recomposition of subjectivity and the formation of social solidarity. There is no outside. ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊThe reciprocal implication of desire and capitalist development can be properly understood through the concept of schizo deterritorialization. No external force or external project can propel the process of transformation which leads to a new form of social organization.13 / 11:22:55 EST capitalist subjugation. the truth is that we haven't seen anything yet. During this period.2 A popular Ô68 slogan did say:ÊÒCours camarade. and on the other hand.3 What happened between the two books? Is it that the authors aged.Ó as Nietzsche put it: in this matter. French poststructuralism. and to act in a way that allows His infinite potency to emerge. ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊThe radical materialist thinking that illuminated the path of the autonomia movement in the last decades of the twentieth century is essentially the assertion of the immanent force contained in the present social composition. because there is no exteriority. The possibility of a new social form is incorporated in the social relations. and acceleration is the chaotic factor leading to the spasm that Guattari speaks about in Chaosmosis. we read the following: We require just a little order to protect us from chaos. a book they wrote twenty years after Anti-Oedipus. of decoding and deterritorialization? For perhaps the flows are not yet de territorialized enough. and the cultural forms that capitalism has developed. and that the historical process has nothing to do with the implementation of an Ideal. in fact. already eroded by forgetfulness or precipitated into others that we no longer master. The Unconscious is submitted to the ever increasing pace of the Infosphere. this kind of radical materialism comes with a special celebration of Spinoza. and which needs to be disentangled in order to deploy the potentiality of the general intellect beyond the limits of capitalism. We just need to see His presence. that disappear hardly formed. in the movement of the market. but this isnÕt where the answer lies. ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊNot surprisingly. Not to withdraw from the process. This force is not hidden in the mind of a distinct God. economic globalization and the Info-tech revolution intensified the effects of acceleration onÊthe desiring body. the technical potency. Both Deleuze and Negri. e-flux journal #46 Ñ june 2013 Ê Franco Berardi Bifo Accelerationism Questioned from the Point of View of the Body . ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊA materialist critique of capitalism is based on the notion that there is no transcendent dimension. the old world is behind you!Ó But the evolution of Deleuze and GuattariÕs thought shows a displacement of this point of view: in the last chapter of What is Philosophy?. If we investigate acceleration from the point of view of sensibility and the desiring body. we see that chaos is the painful perception of speed. from the viewpoint of a theory and a practice of a highly schizophrenic character.Ó It marks the difference go in the opposite direction? To go still further. have emphasized SpinozaÕs rejection of transcendentality: God is here. 03/06 Immanence/Possibility The dialectical (eschatological) vision of communism as the final realization of a superior form of society following the abolition of capitalism is the political-totalitarian translation of the Hegelian utopia of Aufhebung. and this is the best point of view from which to understand the effects of the accelerating machine on social subjectivity. their bodies weakening and their brains becoming slower? Maybe. God is everywhere. acceleration implies the submission of the Unconscious to the globalized machine. Nothing is more distressing than a thought that escapes itself.

The potency of the general intellect embodied in networked production is subjected to the power of the financial matrix. the second is the assumption that the potentialities contained in the capitalist form are necessarily going to deploy themselves. ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊThe first assumption is belied by the experience of our time: capitalism is resilient because it does not need rational government. but this immanence of the possibility does not equal a logical necessity. and we can no longer run at the same pace. Hardt and Negri seem to equivocate between the two: they actually promote the expectation that the social potency of the common Ð the general intellect Ð is intrinsically ordained to fully deploy itself. In that text. and social subjectivity is captured and subjugated by capitalist governance. is an extreme manifestation of the immanentist conception. Cover of semiotex(e)Õs magazine with protester and inverted May Õ68 slogan. Far from being a methodology of liberation.ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊNot surprisingly. rhizomatics should be viewed as a methodology of the permanent deterritorialization of global financial capitalism. At many points in their work. or the immanence of the autonomous deployment of the general intellect) implies the possibility of this deployment. and because it has no desiring body. The only strategy. of an entanglement blocking the possible. because the process of autonomous subjectivation is jeopardized by chaotic acceleration. it also seems to be a particular interpretation of the Baudrillardian assertion that Òthe only strategy now is a catastrophic strategy. as a tendency embedded in the technological development of the current organization of work and knowledge. therefore. is based on the expectation that the train is going to crash at some point.13. and the capitalist trajectory is going to lead to the subversion of its own inner dynamics. This possibility. Marx asserts the possibility that communism is contained in the folds of the capitalist present. indeed.Ó The train of hypercapitalism cannot be stopped. ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊThe second assumption totally underestimates the obstacles and limitations that hinder and pervert the process of subjectivation. the constant intensification of productivity.ÊThis immanent conception of communism has something to do with the accelerationist hypothesis. Furthermore. can be hindered and diverted by the cultural and psychological forms of subjective existence. ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊThe accelerationist stance. only automatic governance. ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊTheir radical materialism implies the immanent nature of the possibility. the reference to MarxÕs ÒFragment on MachinesÓ is crucial to this point of view. The immanence of the liberatory form (the immanence of communism if you want. Nor does it imply the unstoppable deployment of the richness implied in the present. ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊThe tendency implied in the technological organization of capitalism leads to a new concatenation of knowledge and machines. But it is not (it cannot be) a theory of autonomy. but it is ultimately untrue. it is going faster and faster. and capitalism is intrinsically ordained to culminate in communism. but the philosophical danger that I see in such an immanentist stance consists in mistaking the deployment of potentiality embedded in the present composition of work and technology for a necessity. Paradoxically. 04/06 . acceleration is destroying social subjectivity. Governance is exactly this: the replacement of rational government with the mere concatenation of techno-linguistic automatisms. in my opinion.13 / 11:22:55 EST cannot be accelerated beyond the point of spasm. But they do not consider the possibility of a stoppage in the process of deployment. ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊThe rhizomatic theory is a methodology for the description of capitalist deterritorialization and an attempt to redefine the ground of deterritorialized subjectivation. Everything is already here: the potency of the general intellect. This is an interesting proposition to consider. but does not imply the necessity of it. which is a system of automatic mechanisms running at blinding speed. the tendency towards the emancipation of time from labor. being an abstract system of automatisms. as the latter is based on the rhythm of bodily desire. which 11. The Accelerationist Hypothesis The accelerationist hypothesis is based on two main points: the first is the assumption that accelerating production cycles make capitalism unstable.

Milan.ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊ! Franco Berardi. media theorist.13 / 11:22:55 EST e-flux journal #46 Ñ june 2013 Ê Franco Berardi Bifo Accelerationism Questioned from the Point of View of the Body . He currently teaches Social History of the Media at the Accademia di Brera. 05/06 11. aka ÒBifo. His last book titled After the Future is published by AKpress.Ó founder of the famous ÒRadio AliceÓ in Bologna and an important figure of the Italian Autonomia Movement. and media activist. is a writer.13.

and Helen R.ÊWhat is Philosophy?. 1994). 11. 201. Robert Hurley.13 / 11:22:55 EST e-flux journal #46 Ñ june 2013 Ê Franco Berardi Bifo Accelerationism Questioned from the Point of View of the Body 06/06 . trans.ÊÊÊÊÊÊ1 See MarxÕs ÒFragment on MachinesÓ in theÊGrundrisse (1858) or Paolo VirnoÕs essay ÒGeneral Intellect.Ó ÊÊÊÊÊÊ2 Gilles Deleuze and FŽlix Guattari. Graham Burchell and Hugh Tomlinson (New York: Verso.ÊAnti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. ÊÊÊÊÊÊ3 Deleuze and Guattari. 1977). Mark Seem. trans. Lane (New York: Penguin.13. 239.

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